SCOTUS Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Bans

In a 5-4 ruling the United States Supreme Court has struck down same-sex marriage bans that remained in place across the country.

Amendment One, passed by North Carolina voters in 2012 banning same-sex marriage in the Tar Heel state, was struck down by the fourth circuit court of appeals in 2014. As federal courts continued to strike down marriage bans, the sixth circuit court of appeals chose to uphold bans in its district. That decision brought the case before the Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court heard arguments over same-sex marriage bans in late April and Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the ruling on Friday.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt issued the following statement:

It’s a great day for all Americans and for the promise of our democracy. Today the Supreme Court affirmed what a bipartisan supermajority—60%—of Americans have come to understand: the freedom to marry is a precious, fundamental right that belongs to all. This decision is a momentous win for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love. State officials should now move swiftly to implement the Court’s decision in the remaining 13 states with marriage discrimination. Same-sex couples and their families have waited long enough for this moment.

As we celebrate this victory, we know we have a lot of work left to do. It is more critical than ever that we harness the momentum borne from the marriage conversation to secure true full equality for LGBTQ people. No one should have to choose between getting married and being fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, or being denied service in restaurants and shops simply for being who they are. Hate, violence and deep barriers to healthcare access continue to harm LGBTQ people, especially trans people of color; and LGBTQ immigrants face widespread abuses in ICE detention centers.

The decades-long freedom to marry movement made history, fundamentally transforming the way Americans understand gay people. We stand together as a Proud community today, ready to continue working until the lived experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people is fulfilling, good, inclusive, and equal throughout the land.

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle issued this statement:

Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges is life altering for thousands of Americans. From this day forward, under the laws of our country, same-sex couples now have the absolute legal right to be married. I am so proud to be the mayor of a town that let the charge to this day – thank you, Carrboro.

So many of us were ready to receive the benefits and accept the responsibilities that marriage entailed, but never dreamed that we would be able to marry our partners in our lifetimes. Now we can.

Some may say that this victory came with surprising speed. It is difficult to think of another social sea change that had such a sprint to the finish line. But such a focus is too narrow, as it does not acknowledge or honor the people that suffered and the people that worked tirelessly to get us to this day. Nor does it recognize the people who will never know the benefits of marriage equality. Some were silent in the closet, some battled in the headlines. Many died without knowing that their efforts bore fruit, or without being able to publicly declare their love for another. But we know. We remember. We carry on for you. And we are grateful.

So today we celebrate and give thanks, and tomorrow we get back to work. One only needs look at other civil rights movements to realize that despite this accomplishment, there are more challenges to come. But that is okay – loving won today.

4th District Congressman David Price issued the following statement:

I join many of my constituents, some of whom have been waiting for this moment for a long time, in celebrating today’s Supreme Court decision, which continues the remarkable progress we have made as a country toward equal rights for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. I am reminded this morning of the landmark cases of the Civil Rights era, when justice finally won out over long-standing prejudice.

“But we should also remember that we still have a long way to go – in many parts of the country, including North Carolina, LGBT Americans still don’t enjoy equal protection against discrimination in the workplace, in schools, by medical providers, or in public facilities. We must redouble our efforts to ensure that all of our neighbors, colleagues, friends, and family members are treated fairly under the law.

“Liberty Rules…And So Does Love”

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to take action – at least not right now – on the same-sex marriage issue. But that decision actually has major ramifications, nationwide and here in North Carolina, and advocates for same-sex marriage nationwide are rejoicing.

“I was shocked,” said Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt Monday, “but then seconds later, just overjoyed.”

What the Court did on Monday was to deny cert – that is, to decline to review – five lower-court rulings on same-sex marriage. That means those lower-court rulings are allowed to stand. And each of those rulings struck down a different state’s ban on gay marriage – so by not acting on Monday, the Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage in five different states at once.

Those states are Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Virginia. The Court’s ruling (or non-ruling) Monday means that same-sex marriage is legal, right now, in all five states.

And that has significant implications for North Carolina. The Virginia ruling came down from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and North Carolina is in their jurisdiction – which means the Virginia ruling applies to North Carolina as well. There needs to be another court ruling to make that official – but based on the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, our ban on same-sex marriage will be struck down and same-sex marriage will be legal and recognized, perhaps even in a matter of days.

Listen to Mark Kleinschmidt’s conversation with WCHL’s Aaron Keck on Monday afternoon.


“I was as shocked as any Supreme Court watcher was,” says Kleinschmidt, who’s a constitutional attorney and a national advocate for same-sex marriage. Most legal experts assumed that the justices would accept the cases for review, in order to weigh in definitively on the matter. Earlier this summer, though, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the Court typically wouldn’t hear a case unless there were conflicting rulings from circuit courts – and in this case, every circuit court that’s ruled so far has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.

There are several circuit courts that haven’t yet weighed in – including the Sixth Circuit, where judges in an oral argument earlier this year seemed more skeptical about the idea that same-sex marriage was constitutionally protected. Monday’s ruling (or non-ruling) doesn’t apply to the states under those courts’ jurisdiction – about 20 states in all. But it does apply to North Carolina, as well as numerous other states – inclding West Virginia, Maryland and South Carolina, which are also under the Fourth Circuit’s jurisdiction.

“There’s a whole lot of celebrating that’s going to go on in North Carolina…and it’s going to happen really big,” says Kleinschmidt. “While marriage is not available on this day at this hour in North Carolina for same-sex couples, it could happen as early as this week…

“Certainly there could be same-sex weddings on Halloween.”

The Fourth Circuit Court’s ruling in Virginia (in a case called Bostic v. Schaefer) doesn’t deal directly with North Carolina, so it will take an additional court ruling to overturn North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban. But lower courts within the Fourth Circuit are legally bound by the circuit court’s rulings – and while the Bostic case only deals with Virginia’s law, the Fourth Circuit judges declared unequivocally that the “fundamental right to marry” extends to same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples.

Read the Fourth Circuit’s ruling in the Bostic case.

Based on that reasoning, it’s a virtual certainty that North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage will be overturned. The ACLU of North Carolina has filed a request seeking an immediate ruling to that effect from Chief U.S. District Judge William Osteen, and there are other cases in the legal system as well – including one that Kleinschmidt is working on himself.

“(And) fundamental rights don’t end with just marriage,” Kleinschmidt says, looking forward. “Hopefully we’ll see courts now being able to make sure people don’t get thrown out of their houses and fired from their jobs (for being gay).”

The Supreme Court’s decision not to decide means that the same-sex marriage issue is still not entirely resolved. Another circuit court could still rule the opposite way, and if it does, the Supreme Court may take up the question at a later date.

But for now, proponents of same-sex marriage – like Kleinschmidt – are ecstatic.

“Liberty rules,” he said Monday. “And so does love.”

Court Strikes Down VA Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Nc Attorney General Roy Cooper

Nc Attorney General Roy Cooper

Following the Fourth Circuit Court’s ruling, Cooper announced Monday that North Carolina would no longer be contesting court challenges to Amendment 1.

Monday in Richmond, a three-judge panel on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage – a ruling that may have significant implications for North Carolina down the road.

In the case of Bostic v. Schaefer, the judges struck down Virginia’s ban by a 2-1 vote, ruling that a ban on same-sex marriage violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection and due process under the law. Technically that ruling only applies to Virginia’s law, but the Fourth Circuit also covers North Carolina as well – so lower court judges will use the Fourth Circuit’s opinion as guidance when ruling on North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban, also known as Amendment 1.

The ruling will not take effect in Virginia for 21 days; it’s likely the judges will issue a stay on the ruling; and it’s almost certain to be appealed to a higher court. Still, Monday’s ruling is significant: it marks only the third time a circuit court has struck down a state’s ban on same-sex marriage. And within hours of the ruling, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that the state would no longer actively oppose the challenges to Amendment 1 currently making their way through the courts.

Following the ruling, WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, a constitutional lawyer who’s actively involved in one of the ongoing challenges to Amendment 1.

Aaron also spoke with Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality NC, an organization that’s fighting against the same-sex marriage ban in North Carolina.

Levin JCC Hosts Social Justice Events

Photo of Pearl Berlin and Lennie Gerber

CHAPEL HILL – The Levin Jewish Community Center will host the first new series of community events entitled JCC Conversations Sunday.

Its topic is Love and Equality.  During the event there will be a panel discussion on marriage in NC with Lennie Gerber and Pearl Berlin, Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, and Lydia Lavelle.  Penny Rich, from the JCC, says that they made this event after hearing about Lennie and Pearl’s 47 years together.

“We thought about it, and we we’re like, wow,” Rich says. “At first, we were kind of joking around, but then it turned into, we should really have some sort of celebration of their life. “We hadn’t had a series yet that they quite fit into, so we actually developed a series around the social justice issue and that’s where JCC Conversations came about.”

Featured outtakes from the documentary film “Living in the Overlap” will be played during the event.  Lennie and Pearl are the subjects of the documentary, which is being entered into the Full Frame festival in the spring.  JCC executive director, Steve Schauder, says that the Jewish community has been progressive about the issue of equal marriage.

“Yeah, I think especially in regards to the Jewish community, every synagogue, the JCC, our Jewish federation, everyone opposed amendment one,” Schauder says. “So from our perspective we really see this as taking the lead and really mobilizing the community around a really critical human rights issue.”

The Pre-Program Reception tickets have sold out, but general admission tickets are still available for $12 and $8 for Levine JCC members.  Penny Rich says that she is excited to have Lydia Lavelle on the panel, and to bring the topic of social justice to the Jewish Community Center.

“We looked at what we want to cover this year, and we did decide that social justice was something that we really wanted to bring to the JCC,” Rich says. “We have a group there now that does a lot of social justice programming, but we didn’t have one specifically that the JCC does.”

Only the first of several events, the JCC Conversations: Love and Equality will be held at their community center on Cornwallis in Durham from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m.

To buy tickets or find out more information on the event click here.